The American Federation of Teachers represents the full spectrum of the modern academic workforce.
We represent thousands of the tenure track faculty who are the backbone of academia. Their teaching work has the power to change the lives of students and they also perform committee work that is usually unseen but vital to the institution. Most tenured faculty perform research pushing the boundaries of knowledge forward in one or more academic disciplines. The AFT is committed to protecting the full breadth of faculty work by promoting shared governance, defending tenure and advancing academic freedom for all of our members.
As state disinvestment has ravaged higher education budgets the traditional corps of full-time tenured faculty has eroded. Tenure-track lines go unfilled while administrators hire adjunct or contingent faculty, often part-time, to teach courses. Today, fewer than 30 percent of the instructional workforce in colleges and universities hold full-time tenured or tenure-track jobs. The AFT has long advocated for the reversal of this trend.
The AFT represents more contingent faculty including part-time faculty, adjuncts, lecturers, and full-time non-tenure track faculty, than any other union and we are fully committed to ensuring their work is supported and respected. Too often contingent faculty are paid exploitative salaries, receive few or no benefits, and enjoy little or no job security. AFT union contracts, though varied and imperfect, have been models for issues such as job security, pro-rata pay, and benefits for adjuncts.
The fastest growing group of academic employees in higher education today is professional staff. Holding hundreds of job titles and descriptions, they play an integral role in knitting together the diverse and complex parts of our higher education institutions. The professional staff in the AFT include counselors, IT staff, laboratory technicians, admissions officers, and library support staff. The AFT is committed to fighting for fair and transparent tenure and promotion procedures for professional staff who are too often victims of a "do more with less" mentality.
Graduate employees have been a part of AFT from the earliest successes in obtaining collective bargaining in higher education in the late 1960s. Given their status as teachers, researchers, discussion leaders, and lab facilitators graduate employees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. AFT graduate employees have been national leaders in the movement to recognize these contributions.
The AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) jointly represent education professionals, including higher education members, in Florida, New York, Minnesota, and North Dakota. The AFT and NEA have also jointly taken on organizing projects such as those at Eastern, Central, Western Washington universities where the faculty are represented by both organizations. The AFT and NEA cooperate on a number of professional issues related to higher education at state and national levels.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the AFT have also taken on join organizing projects and have jointly affiliated faculty locals in states like Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. The AAUP has long been recognized as a leader in enforcing professional standards for faculty such as academic freedom.